Health Connection

Help For the Holiday Blues

Josh Parker, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Help For the Holiday Blues

The holidays can be stressful. Shopping, social events, debt, and other pressures can lead to anxiety. Missing loved ones, and stewing about past events can also contribute. This change from your everyday routine can cause you to neglect good nutrition. And, you are more likely to skip exercise, a key component in relieving stress. Together, these factors can lead to holiday blues.

Will your holiday be blue?
During the holidays, you may feel lonely, sad, angry, and have poor sleep. Even if you’re not prone to depression, you may have other symptoms, such as headaches, tension, and fatigue. It’s also easy to eat and drink too much. Excessive alcohol consumption has been directly linked to increases in depression and anxiety.

It’s also common to feel a holiday letdown after the holidays are over. Hectic holidays can leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained. You may feel a sense of loss or frustration. That can turn into the blues.

Don’t confuse holiday blues with clinical depression. Clinical depression is a disorder that may need to be treated with medicine. The holiday blues could need something as simple as a good listener. Clinical depression, however, can be triggered in a number of ways at or just after the holidays. If those feelings of depression persist for more than a few weeks it might be time to talk to your doctor.

There is also a tendency to link the holiday blues with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called depression with seasonal pattern. SAD, however, is a diagnosable problem linked to fewer hours of sunlight during the winter. People with the holiday blues also can also have SAD. But, the 2 are not directly related. People with SAD have symptoms of major depression throughout the fall and winter.

How to keep the blues away
You might ease your holiday blues with something as simple as getting enough rest. People tend to lose sleep during the holidays and end up shortchanging themselves. Lack of sleep can cause cloudy thinking, and irritability. It can also hamper your ability to deal with everyday stress.

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and getting some exercise can ease the blues. Also, make an effort to stay positive.

Tips to ease the blues

If you have the holiday blues, try these tips:

  • Have a heart-to-heart with a friend.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Stick within your normal routine as much as you can.
  • Set a realistic budget and then stick to it.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations.
  • Do not label the season as a time to cure past problems.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. That means don’t go to parties when you don’t really have time or don’t feel like socializing. Don’t take on events that will crowd your time. Don’t overextend yourself.
  • Find time for yourself.
  • Enjoy free holiday activities.
  • Try to celebrate the holidays in a different way

Two women sitting together talking and drinking coffee

The holiday blues can be quite common, but if you are feeling especially down—for example, your sleep or your appetite is affected—contact your healthcare provider.

About Josh Parker:

Profile picture of Josh ParkerJosh Parker attended undergraduate at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and attended graduate school at Tulane University. He first earned his bachelor’s degree in Religion and African American studies, followed by his master’s in Social Work. He is a licensed clinical social worker and has been practicing social work for five years. He is interested in direct patient care, as well as understanding how healthcare systems affect individuals.